WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon think it’s easy to distill the case for impeaching President Donald Trump — despite what her Republican colleagues on the U.S. House Judiciary may claim.
During an hours-long hearing Monday, the judiciary panel’s top Republican, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, of Georgia, derided the proceedings as a “charade.” He pointed to famous lines from past presidential impeachment efforts, like “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” when President Richard Nixon was under investigation.
“What would be known about this one is probably, ‘Where’s the impeachable offense? Why are we here?’” Collins said. “We don’t have a crime.”
Scanlon, the committee’s vice-chairman, disagreed.
“I don’t think there’s any question” about the phrase that will define this inquiry, the 5th District Democrat told reporters outside the hearing.
It’s “‘I want you to do us a favor though,’” Scanlon, of Delaware County, said, referring to Trump’s request that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy investigate Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
“The president solicited foreign interference into our national elections using a foreign country,” Scanlon said. “That’s exactly what our founders feared and that’s why they put impeachment in our Constitution. It’s a pretty clear case.”
When you don’t have the facts, or the law, on your side, pound the table.
— Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (@RepMGS) December 9, 2019
Scanlon is one of three Pennsylvanians on the Judiciary Committee, which is expected to soon advance articles of impeachment against Trump.
U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, of Montgomery County, and the other Pennsylvania Democrat on the committee, wrote on Twitter Monday that Trump “put himself before the country — violating a President’s most basic responsibility.
“He broke his oath to the American people.” Dean added, “He has left us no choice. We must act and protect our Republic.”
No one is above the law. https://t.co/FHnkEt9iP7
— Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (@RepDean) December 9, 2019
U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, Pennsylvania’s lone Republican on the panel, has joined his Republican colleagues defending the president and slamming Democrats’ proceedings.
“As a Navy JAG prosecuting terrorists in Iraqi court, I was afforded more courtesy than [Republican Judiciary Committee] members are getting in this sham impeachment hearing,” Reschenthaler, R-14th District, wrote Monday on Twitter. Democrats have turned the panel “into a kangaroo court,” he said.
‘Imminent threat’ to national security
Monday’s hearing offered Democratic and Republican staff attorneys the opportunity to lay out their strongest arguments for and against impeachment. But the proceedings did little to move the needle on Capitol Hill, where both sides remain firmly entrenched in their positions.
Democrats are pushing ahead with impeachment proceedings against Trump after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., directed committee leaders to draft formal impeachment articles.
“We are here today because Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, abused the power of his office, the American presidency, for his political and personal benefit,” testified Daniel Goldman, counsel for Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. “President Trump directed a months-long campaign to solicit foreign help in his 2020 re-election efforts, withholding official acts from the government of Ukraine in order to coerce and secure political assistance and interference in our domestic affairs.”
And the president “has not given up,” Goldman added. “He and his agents continue to solicit Ukrainian interference in our election, causing an imminent threat to our elections and our national security.”
Barry Berke, a lawyer for Judiciary Committee Democrats, urged lawmakers on the panel to consider their place in history as they weigh whether to support impeachment.
“My son, our children, our grandchildren, they will study this moment in history. They will read all of your remarks, they will learn about all of your actions,” Berke said. “That is a reason for us to have a fair debate about what the undisputed facts show, to recognize that it is wrong, it is very wrong, and it cannot happen again with this president or any president.”
GOP dismisses ‘charade’
The Republicans’ witness, staff attorney Steven Castor, portrayed Democrats’ case as “baloney.”
Trump’s conduct “does not” fit the definition of an impeachable high crime or misdemeanor, said Castor, a Philadelphia-area native who earned his bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania State University and his MBA at Lehigh University, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“The record in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry does not show that President Trump abused the power of his office or obstructed Congress,” Castor said.
Democrats, he added, “have been searching for a set of facts on which to impeach President Trump since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.”
Much of Monday’s hearing was acrimonious, as Republican lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee decried the proceedings as biased, unfair and rushed. Republicans interjected several times to criticize the process. At the start of the hearing, a protester disrupted to accuse Nadler of “treason.”
Collins derided Pelosi for pushing her colleagues to draft articles of impeachment after holding just one Judiciary Committee hearing last week. That hearing followed a series of private and public hearings in the Intelligence Committee.
“They can’t get over the fact [that] Donald Trump is president of the United States and they don’t have a candidate that they think can beat him,” Collins said. “It’s all political.”
‘Pounding the table’
House Democrats, meanwhile, dismissed GOP objections as a distraction.
“The evidence is overwhelming and the GOP has not laid a glove on our case,” U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told reporters outside the hearing. “The president has no alibi, he’s essentially admitted all of the relevant misconduct.”
Republicans, Raskin said, are “pounding the table about process, but the evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors is compelling and overwhelming.”
Raskin said that as Democrats move forward, he’d like to see “as comprehensive a statement of the president’s misconduct as possible and very focused articles of impeachment.”
Scanlon accused the GOP of trying “every procedural trick in the book to prevent the American people from hearing the truth.” She wrote on Twitter during the hearing, “When you don’t have the facts, or the law, on your side, pound the table.”
Washington correspondent Allison Stevens contributed to this report.